A blog devoted to exploring wines made from unusual grape varieties and/or grown in unfamiliar regions all over the world. All wines are purchased by me from shops in the Boston metro area or directly from wineries that I have visited. If a reviewed bottle is a free sample, that fact is acknowledged prior to the bottle's review. I do not receive any compensation from any of the wineries, wine shops or companies that I mention on the blog.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Weird Blend Wednesday - Alvarelhão, Pedral & Vinhão - Vinho Verde, Portugal

Alvarelhão Grapes
Today I'm debuting a new feature that I like to call Weird Blend Wednesday, where I take a look at a wine I've tried that is a blend of several different unusual grapes.  As a general rule, I usually like to stick with varietal wines for this site, but sometimes I come across something that is full of really interesting grapes that I just can't pass up.  The problem is that they don't really fit in with the format that I've been working with over the past year or so, so I end up either not drinking them, which is no fun at all, or drinking them and staring at the tasting note for months with no idea how to incorporate it into the site.  So, if I have a wine that is made up of three or more different grapes and it isn't clear whether one of the grapes in the wine makes up at least 50% of the total blend, then I'll relegate it to this little corner of the blog.  Welcome, friends, to Weird Blend Wednesday.

Today's featured wine is from the Vinho Verde region of Portugal, which we've taken a brief look at before when we talked about the Espadeiro grape.  As mentioned in that post, Vinho Verde is a wine region in northern Portugal.  Many of the wines that are made there are light, spritzy white wines that are so prevalent that many people think that Vinho Verde refers to that particular style of wine rather than the region, but wines from Vinho Verde come in all different colors and styles, from light spritzy whites to deep brooding reds.  Today's wine is somewhere in between.  Like the Espadeiro I wrote about previously, this was a rosé wine made from a blend of three different grapes: Alvarelhão, Pedral and Vinhão.  Like many Portuguese wines, I can't find any indication either on the bottle or online about how much of the blend each grape makes up, so this wine is the perfect bottle to kick off Weird Blend Wednesday.

Pedral Grapes
Alvarelhão is a red skinned grape that is currently grown on less than 500 hectares of land within Portugal.  It is one of the many permitted grapes in the Port blend, though it is usually little more than a bit player.  Its main synonym within Portugal is Brancelho, and it is known in Galicia, just over the Spanish border, as Brancellao.  It's not a particularly productive grape, but it makes up for it by being resistant to extreme temperatures and bad weather, which is helpful in the wet Vinho Verde region.  It is thought to be native to the Dão region of Portugal.

Pedral is also a red-skinned grape that is grown both in Spain, particularly in Galicia where it is known as Pedral, and Portugal, where it can often be found under the names Padral or Cainho.  It's grown mostly in the Monção sub-region of Vinho Verde, where it is one of the recommended varieties for planting, but it may actually be Spanish in origin.  It's pretty hard to say. There isn't a whole lot of information out there about this particular grape.

Vinhão Grapes
Vinhão is more commonly found under the names Souzão or Sousão, depending on where you are.  It is thought to be native to the Minho region of Portugal, which is in the extreme northwest corner of the country.  It is also one of the approved Port grapes, where, when it is used at all, it is prized for the deep color that it can provide to the wine.  While Portugal is the grape's native home, most of the world's plantings are found in the New World.  Australia uses the grape for their own take on Port while California and South Africa are also in the Vinhão business, presumably for its coloring effects, as wine made from the grape is not generally held in much esteem.  It seems that we'll get a chance to see if that's true before too long, as I have a Spanish bottle of wine made from the Souson grape which, according to the VIVC, is none other than Vinhão.

The wine that I tried which was made from these grapes was the 2009 Muralhas de Monção (which means "the walls of Monção") Vinho Verde rosé, which I picked up for about $9.  The wine is made by the Adega Coop. Regional de Monção, which is a massive collection of over 1,700 growers who farm about 1,200 total hectares of land spread between the Monção and the Melgaço regions of Vinho Verde.  The co-op was established just south of the town of Monção in 1958 and only had about 25 growers at the time.  The grapes are hand-harvested and vinified in stainless steel tanks.  In the glass, the wine had a medium salmon pink color with just a little bit of effervescence.  The nose was fairly aromatic with strawberry and grapefruit with some grapefruit peel and a slight grassy kind of herbaceousness to it.  On the palate the wine was on the lighter side of medium with fairly high acidity and just a touch of effervescence.  There were bright strawberry and watermelon fruit flavors with a touch of pink grapefruit as well.  The wine was simple, fresh and fruity.  If you can picture a zippy Sauvignon Blanc mixed with a bright, fruity rosé, that would be a good comparison for what this wine was like.  It's a great summer wine that is really hard to beat for the money.  Plus, how often do you get to cross off three different grapes from your Wine Century Club application for only $9?

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